By Taylor Martin | September 13, 2013 4:15 PM
Mobile users, in general, are pretty stingy.
“$2 for a calendar app? That’s crazy! I’ll use this free one.”
There’s an argument to be made for free apps, sure. But the pricing scale of mobile applications has largely skewed our views of the value of said apps. The millions of applications which make our mobile devices … useful are typically much cheaper than their desktop counterparts. Where Mac and PC apps may cost anywhere from one to several thousand dollars, the vast majority of the most expensive mobile apps still cost less than $20.
Most would assume the average price of mobile apps is somewhere between $1 and $5 – and it probably lies somewhere in the middle of those two fiThgures, if you don’t count all the free apps. But Flurry Analytics reported in July that the average price of an iPhone app is a mere $0.19. And as in-app purchases and the freemium game type become more popular, that figure could go down.
The cost to develop those apps, however, can vary quite a bit – anywhere from a couple grand to upwards of a quarter of a million dollars. Yet, mobile applications are a new breed. The vast majority are sold at a one-time price. In most cases, that upfront cost includes all current and future features. Future updates come free of charge, despite the additional work, time, and money required of the developers.
All the while, mobile users have come to expect constant development and upkeep of the applications they paid for without having to shell out additional cash.
On September 18, Apple will be releasing its first major UI overhaul for iOS. In iOS 7, practically every UI element has drastically changed – 3D visuals and photorealism have been replaced with whitespace design, gradients, and vibrant colors. The UI will be flat and simplistic. Minimal yet … vibrant.
This update will warrant major UI overhauls for practically every existing application, else they continue to look old and antiquated and utilize old UI elements.
Apple is encouraging developers to have their updates ready for the September 18 release date. But such drastic changes have prompted some developers to take a new an unexpected approach: create entirely new versions of their apps and force existing customers to purchase the new version if they want the new interface and any additional features.
The popular to-do list app Clear by Realmac Software is the prime example of this. The current version of Clear is for sale in the App Store for a mere $0.99, but Nik of Realmac announced Clear for iOS 7 on Wednesday. It will be made available on September 18, and the simple explanation offered is:
“As the App Store doesn’t offer upgrade pricing, we’ll be launching Clear for iOS 7 at an introductory price – details of which we’ll be announcing soon.”
Another example is called Reeder, what was once a Google Reader client which was recently updated for Feedly, Feedbin, Feed Wrangler, and Fever support. The iPhone version of Reeder was made free, while the Mac and iPad versions were pulled from their respective App Stores. Yesterday, the developer, Silvio Rizzi, released the new version, Reeder 2, to the App Store for another $5.
The question is: would you pay for updates to an application you’ve already purchased?
My knee-jerk reaction absolutely not. If I’ve already paid for an application, why you I need to pay again? Unless the functionality of the application has improved or changed, a slew of new and additional features are available, and it’s one of my must-have applications, no, I’m not okay with being charged for another application.
But them my voice of reason kicks in. Developers don’t always have it easy. And they’re often the ones who make our mobile experience notably better. Imagine using your phone without your favorite premium apps. Boring, huh?
Ultimately, it comes down to how important the update is, how much the update costs, and how many of the current applications I have are asking for a paid update.
In this particular case, I can’t see how a paid update is warranted. Yes, developers are required to update their apps to make use of the new interface. Yes, it may be one of the biggest updates to date for most iOS apps, but for an app like Clear, which didn’t even utilize the old iOS interface, I can’t see how an entirely new application is necessary. It’s an oversight on the developers’ part, and it would simply make more sense to update the necessary UI elements and lump any additional features in as an in-app purchase.
Reeder is a bit of an exception. It has long been sold as a separate app for iPhone and iPad. With Google killing Reader, the developer had an unexpected turn of events and had to search for RSS alternatives. Then the developer was blindsided with a UI overhaul. Frankly, I feel some sympathy for Rizzi.
In general, though, I’m rarely against giving some of my money to a deserving developer. They are who make the experiences so unique and refreshing. Without them, our favorite mobile platforms would be a lot less exciting.
Tell us, readers. Would you pay for app updates? Or would you look for an alternative instead of spending more money on an existing app?